Reduce the Stress of Traveling With your Toddler
Traveling with your toddler can be very stressful. Toddlers are impatient and do not like to sit still for long periods of time. That poses a challenge when you have somewhere to go. But don't give up! Use your knowledge of what your toddler likes and what makes him happy to help you keep him occupied and take the stress out of getting wherever you need to go, whether you are traveling by car, bus, or train. And remember, he is a toddler, so don't expect him to be the perfect passenger, sitting silently and enjoying the view. Try to let him run off steam whenever possible. Remember, he may get cranky and fuss, but keep your cool and call upon this bag of tricks to help ease the situation and calm your little one.
Tips for traveling with your toddler
- Talk to your toddler. Talking about safety rules when you get ready to go out, even with young children, will reinforce the importance of buckling-up and the need to let the driver focus on the road, or staying seated in the stroller on a train or bus. Talk to your child about how in the car, bus, or train there are rules different than in the house or at the park. We stay seated, listen, play with our toys, and look forward to getting to where we are going. Give your child positive praise to help reinforce her good behavior by saying things like "It makes me so happy when you sit nicely!"
- Stay as close as possible to your child's normal routine Although it might be difficult, try to make sure your toddler's meal and sleeping times remain consistent. For long trips, travel late at night or very early in the morning to take advantage of the time your child is normally sleeping.
- Let your toddler release some energy. If you are onn a long trip, stop every two hours or so and let your child get out of the car and walk around. Play areas are great for blowing off some steam, as long as you pay close attention to moving vehicles. Stop at family-friendly restaurants. Even on short trips, like if you are going to the doctor's office, try and get there early so there are a few minutes to let your child play or run around so that she is not cranky.
- Pack a 'travel bag' for your toddler. Let her carry some special items to be used only in the car. Some items you might want to include are music tapes or CD's, a picture book, and a special toy (that is quiet and not annoying to the driver or other passengers).
- Provide a shaded spot for your child. In advance, purchase sunshades to cover car windows that block sunshine that could otherwise annoy your child during the ride. If you are traveling by public transportation, make sure your child's stroller has a shade for when you need to walk outside.
- Carry drinks and snacks. Try to find some drinks and snacks that won't spill and make a mess to save you time and clean-up. Some suggestions are juice boxes or sippy cups, rice cakes, bagels, cereal, granola bars, crackers, and pretzels. If you are traveling in a car, remember to protect the seat.
- Keep a supply of "emergency" items in the car. Have wet wipes, diapers, extra clothing, band-aids, bottled water, and anything else you think you might need. If you are traveling by car, you should also bring a flashlight and lightweight blanket in case of a breakdown.
- The commuting child. These days, many children join their parents for the commute to work and get dropped at child care on the way. If you and your child spend the day apart, use this commute time to have some quality time with your toddler. You both may be exhausted, but when you get home it will be time to get ready for the next day. When you pick your child up from the childcare center, ask the teacher what he did that day, and then ask him about it on the way home. If you are driving and cannot look at your child, make a game out of what you see out the window. If you take the bus or train, you can use this time to read with your child.
- Breathe, relax and keep your cool. Remember safety first!
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.